Hogmanay translates to ‘the last day of the year’, and it’s also the name of the biggest festival to ring in the new year. Hogmanay Festival is the ultimate Edinburgh new year party! It is also one of the best new year destinations as you will explore, be entertained and celebrate! In Scotland, this has always been the celebration of the year – Christmas was only declared as a public holiday in 1958. So, all the festivities were kept for this main event, and still are.
Hogmanay festival was in the Guinness Books of Records in 2004 for the biggest New Year’s party, with 400,000 festival-goers. However, the numbers have been limited in recent years. Want to wave off the old and celebrate the new Scottish style? We’ll make sure you know all about the Hogmanay Festival!
We’ll start with the basics – what is Hogmanay?
The last day of the year is celebrated with many Scottish traditions, one of them being First-footing. On the first day of the new year friends and family cross the thresholds into each other’s homes with a gift. The first person to cross the threshold will give you gift representative of the year to come. These gifts range between a coin (financial prosperity), coal (representative of warmth) , shortbread (food) or whiskey (good cheer).
Hogmanay is said to have started because the vikings used to celebrate the winter solstice. In fact, in the vikings’ tradition the first foot always had to be a dark-haired, handsome male. Fair-headed first-footers were seen as bad luck because of the wars between the scandinavians and the vikings. The Scots celebrate Hogmanay from the 30th December to the 2nd January (which is a public holiday),each day has an event and this has now become the Hogmanay Festivals.
The first festival is the Torchlight procession on the 30th December. You can either watch the city light-up from a scenic spot in the park. Or, you could buy a torch and become part of the ‘river of light’ that flows through Edinburgh. There are three starting points but they all come together to watch the fireworks light-up the sky. These torches are real viking-like torches so you will feel as of you’ve stepped back in time and see how it used to be celebrated.
Fun Fact! Hogmanay is supposed to be celebrated by the whole family and because of that the new managers of the festival have included something for the kids! Bairns Afore gives kids and parents the opportunity to have their own new year’s celebration. There will be entertainers on stage in the park and then fireworks at 6pm, their own ‘midnight’.
At 7pm the doors open for the Street Party, which takes place along Princes Street. This is described as ‘the ultimate party’ and you will be entertained in all shapes and sizes. The Hogmanay Street Party will be filled with street performers, DJs, artists, bands and any other form of entertainment. The finale will be the fireworks at midnight which will light up the sky and Edinburgh Castle in the background.
If you don’t feel like a street party filled with DJs and stages you can head over to the Concert in the Gardens. Tickets to the gardens includes access to the Street Party because this is the golden ticket! Hogmanay Festival’s concerts have boasted famous headliners like Paolo Nutini, Kasabian and The Pet Shop Boys. Other than the phenomenal stage performances, you have a seat to the best fireworks’ display as you will be higher up and will see the city and castle below.
Perhaps you’d like to see some Scottish tradition in action? Then Ceilidh Under the Castle is where you want to be! Be prepared to dance the year away as Ceilidh callers will be there to teach you the traditional steps. You’ll be surrounded by jigging, swirling and flinging and traditional Scottish refreshments will be there to quench your thirst and hunger. Imagine welcoming the new year with a display of fireworks and the walls of Edinburgh Castle around you.
After all the partying and celebrating from Hogmanay, the Scottish like to start their new year “fresh”. And be fresh we mean taking a swim in the Firth of Forth. Yes, you read right – they swim in the freezing water! Loony Dook sees all the party-goers from the night before, dressing up in traditional Scottish clad to shock their hangover away. If this doesn’t sound like your type of introduction into the new year – then you can wrap up and watch the Dookers Parade as they make their way along the length of the High Street.
From the 1st till the 25th of January, Edinburgh celebrates its title as the first UNESCO City of Literature with the Message from the Skies event. This forms part of the Hogmanay Festivals and Edinburgh’s Book Festival. Author Val McDermid has written a story which is projected onto the walls of the city. People need to move through the city in order to follow the story. Each projection reveals a new chapter.
What to pack
There’s no beating around the bush, you will get cold in Edinburgh during December. But this hasn’t stopped all the previous festival-goers. So, you just need to be prepared with your beanie, scarf, gloves, thick socks and warm jacket. Although, with all the people (and maybe some dancing) you may want to cool down a bit, so dress in layers that can be shed when the party gets going! December in Edinburgh sees an overall daily temperature of 5°C (41°F). And, if you plan on seeing the new year in past midnight you need to prepare for those nippy morning temperatures! But, as we said before, many have done it before and every year the cold weather is simply shrugged aside to make way for the celebrations.
You will need to buy tickets in advance! There is a limit on the number of people allowed into the festival. You can find all the essential information about the event here!
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